Written by Cristian J. Stanic
Overcooked 2 is a humble puzzle-party game developed by Ghost Town Games, a studio of just two people! But you wouldn’t know it from playing the finished product. We can honestly say that this is the best party game out of 2018 so far, and we’ll be busting it out every time we’ve got mates around to join in the fun. So, let’s slice into Overcooked 2 and examine what ingredients make the co-op culinary chaos so much fun.
As we mentioned, Overcooked 2 is a party game, and that means it thrives with the more people you have to play with. Optimally, you should really be playing this game with three friends, though you do have the option to play by yourself or, interestingly, with other players online. The challenge of wrangling online partners to actually form a cohesive strategy to win remains to be seen, but it could certainly lead to some funny, if frustrating situations.
However, having three friends in the living room with you is still the best way to go. Nothing beats the fast-paced madness of yelling at your teammates for “more ingredients! Steam the fish! Send it out!” as you contend with the ever-present clock, and the food orders piling up in front of you (this writer’s voice is still hoarse from screaming at the time of this being written).
Overcooked 2 forces cooperation, and we love it. If you don’t communicate effectively with your teammates and work together, you will lose. It is such a positive experience to sit with your friends and solve these complicated puzzles together, since everyone on the team will have to play a role in the kitchen if the team is to succeed, no sitting on the sidelines in this game. So many times, we would fall short of getting the coveted three-star ranking for a level, and we would play it over and over again until we earned it, the levels were that much fun. When we lost, it never felt like we were cheated by the game. We would pause the game to study the map, and come up with a strategy to win, delegating jobs in the kitchen for maximum cooking efficiency.
A game’s no fun if it’s too easy, and Overcooked 2 applies this philosophy quite liberally to its levels. Some of the levels are punishingly brutal. This is a hard game. Despite the kid-friendly aesthetics and goofy premise, there is a lot of complexity built into every challenging map. You’ll be forced to think about a dozen different things at once, as you keep an eye on rice boiling, food cooking in pans, blenders, dirty plates, steaming, fires, conveyor belts, and constantly shifting map features, just to name a few things!
We don’t wanna give all the gameplay surprises away, but we’ll say that it can certainly be a frightening situation when you’re dicing carrots you desperately need, and suddenly the entire table is slid across the map by a gale force wind. It gets really complicated, but the game never feels unfair, because of the excellent way the progression and introduction of mechanics is handled. For the first few levels, you’ll only be contending with making the food, simple stuff, but as you go on, one new mechanic or dish is introduced each level, forcing you to keep doing what you already know, whilst adding a whole new set of actions into your repertoire.
The way this is structured, you have enough time to freak out for a bit, then get to grips with the new stuff, and by the end of the level you feel like a pro, before the next level completely throws you for a loop again. The levels are also brief enough that some of the really difficult elements never overstay their welcome and become frustrating. They’re short and sweet, like a good dessert.
The story is pretty cute, but if you’re playing with a group of friends it’s likely that the narrative isn’t something you’re going to pay attention to. There are a lot of food puns thrown into the dialogue, and the effort they must have taken is absolutely appreciated, but really, you’re just waiting to get to another excellent helping of delicious gameplay.
It really is addictive, especially when, after so much trial and error, you enter the hypnotic zen of kitchen work, where everyone flawlessly completes their tasks, you know exactly what to say to each other, and you ace the level. The game runs well, it looks beautiful, and most importantly, it’s just fun. Stressful, but incredibly fun.
If you’re the social kind of gamer, who owns more iterations of Mario Kart and Mario Party than Gears Of War or Battlefield, Overcooked 2 is absolutely one you should be adding to your digital library. With the gaming landscape moving further away from fun couch co-op experiences to always online, all the time, it’s incredibly refreshing to play a game that embraces the living room roots of video gaming, whilst looking to the present and future with its online modes. Overcooked 2 is up there with the greats of the party game genre. So invite some friends around, put on your aprons and your big hats, and get cooking!
Overcooked 2 is available on PS4, Xbox One, Steam, and Nintendo Switch now.